Roots and Branches: Finding the golden egg, at any age

Easter is a holiday celebrated by Christians and pagans alike; Christians celebrate rebirth and resurrection, while pagans honor Eostre, the Goddess of Spring.

People often hypothesize about the origin of Easter traditions which seem incongruous with either religious or pagan ceremony.

In the United States there are the eggs, colored, tossed and rolled, then surreptitiously hidden by an enormous, albeit anonymous Easter bunny. All of these seemingly frivolous activities are preceded or followed by a feast of ham or lamb, new potatoes, deviled eggs and hot cross buns.

One might surmise that it is the rabbits’ propensity to proliferate that gave rise to its symbolic inclusion in this spring holiday, when the earth begins to warm from its winter sleep. Eggs have long been symbols of fertility and harbingers of spring, decorated for centuries by people throughout the world.

Spring is also the time when chicks hatch and adorable bunnies come out of their burrows. But even in the most imaginative minds, a giant rabbit hiding colored eggs in people’s yards seems a bit much to fathom.

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Perhaps I am a tad bit cynical, but I think Easter has evolved into a Mecca for marketers. Peeping chicks have been replaced by an industry of Peeps, neon-colored marshmallow candy shaped like rabbits or chicks, with a shelf life that exceeds the Twinkie. Candy of all kinds is made for the holiday, from bland sugar eggs to jelly bellies, and Cadbury Crème Eggs to chocolate bunnies.

Cuddly stuffed animals of every color and shape are sold by the millions alongside plastic and straw baskets for kids to fill with brightly colored eggs and candy treats. Some folks still purchase eggs to hard-boil and dye, while others have replaced the “real” egg with plastic ones that can be refilled year after year.

I must admit there are some benefits to the plasticization of Easter. You no longer have to spend hours cleaning food coloring off toddler fingertips, scrubbing bowls, countertops and floors of vegetable dye and magic marker marks.

Tears of frustration no longer stream down children’s cheeks as their carefully dipped and decorated eggs are crushed in an overzealous grip. Although I am sure centuries later we could have come up with a reason for the children’s tie-dyed fingertips and clothing that explained the connection to the celebration of Easter.

I appreciate the shift in hiding plastic rather than hard-boiled eggs. I am haunted by a childhood memory of being struck by an elusive Easter egg, left on the playground at Oak Grove School by some practical joker who forgot to boil the egg before dying it. Months later, a classmate who shall remain unnamed chucked the egg at my noggin, covering my hair and neck with an obnoxious smelly slime that can still evoke nauseous nightmares.

We are an eclectic family of faithful, faithless and clueless. Basically we celebrate Easter Sunday by sharing a sagging sideboard overflowing with food with family and friends. Traditions have evolved over time. We cook the traditional ham and hot cross buns, but have added a deviled egg contest to stay in contact with the “real” thing.

For years we made Knox Blox, layers of multi-colored heavy duty Jell-O that can sit on the countertop for hours without need of refrigeration. Tossing the rubbery blocks at one another was an annual tradition until one baked into the hood of Grandpa Chop’s Cadillac, staining it indelibly, a permanent hood ornament of sorts.

When our kids went off to college, they still returned on Easter Sunday, usually with a car full of classmates to share in the Easter feast and egg hunt. We incorporated the quarter toss into the tradition to help feed the laundry machines at school.

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The Easter egg hunt is a constant, enjoyed by young and old, but as mentioned, the hard-boiled dyed variety is left to the more creative parents, replaced by the plastic candy-filled variety for outdoor hunting.

Daughter Kim has incorporated Cascarones, a Mexican Easter tradition where brightly colored eggs have the yolk and whites removed and the interior is refilled with dyed confetti. These are meant to be cracked on an unsuspecting celebrant’s head, bringing them good luck. It also leaves a stain on clothing, floors and sidewalks. Do you sense a theme going on here? I am not a fan of indelible dye.

Corey is the master of outfits and creative ideas, no matter what the holiday. This Easter he arrived in a white golf cart, decorated with a pink nose, huge bunny eyes and ears. The cart was overflowing with our grandchildren, resplendent in their Easter finery. It will be an Easter tradition reincarnated for years to come, welcomed by young ones and senior citizens alike.

This year Rosalie Beachman and Ted Perry joined the celebration. They attended several church gatherings prior to the brunch, all of which were more subdued, traditional observations of Easter. I appreciated their youthful enthusiasm in sharing our more raucous, outrageous Easter celebration. Eight grandchildren, five under the age of 6, can raise the decibel level to intolerable in less than seven seconds.

I was proud of the little ones; they were exceptionally patient this year, eating their brunch first, containing their squeals for almost half an hour until Corey gave the “To the Bunny Mobile” signal and pandemonium broke loose. Baskets in hand, the thundering herd ran outside, scooping eggs from the grass, rocks and bushes. Then into the bunny mobile they hopped, scooting up the orchard row, plucking plastic eggs from tree limbs and tufts of grass until they reached Niko’s yard where the treasures had been placed.

Rosalie and Ted appreciated the sounds of silence for a few moments then joined the rest of the troops in the upper yard. This was a special Easter for these two, a rebirth of sorts. Both lost their life-long partners a few years ago and have just begun enjoying the company of one another this last year.

While Ted has worn his heart on his sleeve since their first coffee dates, Rosalie has marched to the beat of a slightly slower drum. A few months ago she allowed Ted to place a ring on her finger. It was obvious they had found the golden egg, the one with the grand prize inside.

Rebirth, rejoice, renewal.

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